Camping – a term that has many meanings. To some, that
means driving the RV to a park, hooking up to the
electrical outlet and turning on the TV. To others,
camping is about roughing it…. packing the minimum of gear
into a backpack, hiking for miles and sleeping under the
I like it somewhere in between those extremes. I’m fine
with what I call ‘car camping.’ That is, pack as much stuff
as the car can hold, drive to a pretty campground, pitch a
tent, and cook on an open fire.
Slapping bugs, stiff bones from sleeping on bumpy ground,
misty breath in the early morning air – all part of the
adventure, but there the car is, handy for a quick retreat
if the weather is too rotten or the neighbors are really
too loud. And it’s about those neighbors that I yearn
sometimes for more of a get-away.
People camp for a variety of reasons, but surely one of
the main ones is to commune with nature. That’s not always
the easiest feeling to get in a campground with a couple
hundred other families. You’re up close and personal with
more strangers than you ever would be back at home. That’s
the nature of campgrounds, but there are some ways to
increase your chances of solitude.
First, if you do want to stay in actual campgrounds and to
have your car handy, your best bet is to stay in the more
primitive grounds. The ones with no electricity and with
outhouses instead of bath-houses are usually less populated
for obvious reasons. They also generally don’t take
reservations, so it’s part of the adventure to show up and
see how it goes.
Now, if you’re OK with camping outside designated grounds,
most National Forests allow this in the U.S. Then you can
still car-camp, but really have your own space. Use forest
service maps, and locating the good spot becomes part of
Once you’ve found a good spot, you can return again and
again, so it’s worth investing the time to find the place.
Just leave the site like it was when you found it. Pack
out your garbage, don’t have fires if they’re prohibited,
and so on. In addition to being the right thing to do,
leaving the place unmarked by your passage means that other
people might not notice it, and it’ll be there for you next
My favorite way to get to remote places is to canoe camp.
I can still have plenty of stuff with me, and it’s a lot
less work than backpacking. You can canoe camp a couple of
ways, depending on the water conditions.
Sometimes, you can simply paddle across a lake to the
shore opposite the area’s designated campground.
Another way is to shuttle for a river run, which requires
at least one companion. Park one car at the pull-out.
Drive the other car, loaded with gear and the canoe to the
put-in. Run the river and camp along the way. To have
this method work and be safely accomplished clearly
requires some planning, good maps, and probably a bit of
pre-event scouting. Again, part of the adventure.
You know, once you identify a place to have these kinds of
camping trips, where part of the trip is to scout and try
out the various possibilities, campgrounds never have quite
the same cachet. You’ve carved out your own little niche
(figuratively speaking, of course), and if you take good
care in how you use it, the spot will remain your own
private camping ground.